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Mount Cargill & The Otago Peninsula
Work commitments have recently deposited me on to the shores of the Southland city of Dunedin, in New Zealand. Situated far down the eastern coast (a mere 4,000km from the South Pole), the southern hemisphere weather has delivered conditions that emphasise just how far I am from the relatively warm bosom of my regular west London stomping ground.
The 36 hours in transit did nothing to dampen my desire to saddle up and explore this inviting landscape. The horizon is sculpted in lush green mountains, while seductively named coastal routes such as Blanket Bay Road, invite me to get lost in the glorious vistas that get more impressive with every pedal stroke.
Heading north out of Dunedin, where the roads begin to rise with vigour, I cycle past Baldwin Street, resisting the temptation to tackle the ‘world’s steepest street’. Thirty four per cent is the sort of increase I only ever wish to see on my pay cheque, and certainly not on my Garmin’s gradient field. So with jetlag slowly taking over my brain, I leave that challenge for hardier legs.
The switchbacks begin and the town slips away below. Farmland and fields carve out the shape of the mountain, with sturdy-footed sheep clinging to the slopes of steeply angled front garden. With not a single car snaking its way up or down Mount Cargill, the only sound, other than the whistling tailwind, is the occasional tremble of my own vocal chords. The switchbacks remind me of an Alpine climb. Maori legend depicts Mount Cargill as a sleeping princess, her body sculpted from its three peaks.
Reaching the summit, my laboured breath becomes even more strained as I soak up the beautiful vista of the Otago Peninsula. The verdant coastline looks as though it were spewed from ancient volcanoes, untouched and unchanged since the beginning of time. A screaming descent down to the coast nearly proves too much as I become ever more distracted by this incredible landscape. The descent eventually gives way to crystal blue waters, dense green forest and charming river inlets and I soon forget how fresh and cold the air feels as I meander through the twists and turns. Forget Europe, this Pacific island offers some of the most incredible rides you could ever hope to undertake.
A ferocious wintery headwind greets me at Blanket Bay, a precursor to our tussle all the way back to Dunedin. I eke out every ounce of power to stay upright and avoid riding into the water, longing for a vehicle or fellow cyclist to provide me with a slipstream. Such is the strength of the wind that I can feel my face slowly becoming more taut and red. I notice a portable toilet that has been pushed over by the wind and wonder if a similar fate awaits me. Head down, stealing sideways glances at the railway line running parallel to the coastline allows me to regain my bearings and I finally battle back to town.
- A Rapha travel set is up for grabs in Alpe D'Quiz today, featuring a luxurious Rapha Skincare bundle and Wash Bag. → http://t.co/3n8XlqiNYq
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- The masked man on the cyclocross course today was @jeremypowers. It was that cold. http://t.co/KztIjCYu4O
- Calm and confident on the snow - Katerina Nash is off to an early lead. http://t.co/8TynNP7Nho
- Mr. McDonald's tire choice for today's snowy conditions. Can you guess his PSI? http://t.co/2iHgOw6sUw
- They reopened the ice covered fly-over here in Bend. http://t.co/6xOs5BSd0W
- River City Bicycles racer Ryan (Dream) Weaver 2_wicked_awesome powered his way to a chilly 2nd in the… http://t.co/HDDjDnS99w
- Meanwhile over in Bend, Oregon it is a bright, crisp day for cyclocross racing. http://t.co/6lcDQK5UNX
- If you're in Scottsdale, Arizona, make sure to stop by the beautiful new @bicyclehaus shop. 2 - 7pm. http://t.co/gsWtf6fa45
- Win today's Alpe D'Quiz prize: a Men's or Women's Classic Softshell. ‘A thing of beauty,’ according to The Times. → http://t.co/3n8XlqiNYq